Here are some of the main traditional Chinese New Year Dishes, dishes packed full of flavour. Give you an insight into what certain types of dishes symbolise and why they are consumed around Chinese New Year.
FISH 鱼 Yú /yoo/ – PROSPERITY
Fish is a very important dish to eat at New Year, there are various fish with different meanings and the way the fish is eaten is also a big factor. These are some of the types of fish and their meanings:
- Crucian carp: brings good luck for the next year
- Chinese mud carp: wishing for a good and prosperous future
- Catfish: wishing for a surplus for the coming year
In Chinese tradition, it is said that the fish should be the last dish left with some left over as it means there being surpluses every year. There are more customs when it comes to the way the fish is eaten and positioned, it is said the head should face towards elders or any guests as it is a sign of respect.
Traditional words used when eating fish’
Niánnián yǒu yú /nyen-nyen yo yoo/: May you always have more than you need!
Yú yuè lóngmén /yoo ywair long-mnn/: A fish leaping over the dragon gate’ implies successfully passing a competitive examination
DUMPLINGS 饺子 Jiǎozi /jyaoww-dzrr/ – Wealth
Another traditional worldwide renowned dish, Chinese dumplings are made to look like silver ingots relating to the more dumplings you consume the more money you can make in the coming year. Different dumplings also have different meanings in Chinese tradition. Sauerkraut dumplings are not eaten at the festival as it is a sign of a difficult and weak future, dumplings with radish and cabbage are eaten as a sign of calmness and gentleness. Dumplings overall in Chinese culture symbolise prosperity, happiness and celebration.
SPRING ROLLS 春卷 Chūnjuǎn /chwnn- jwen- Wealth
Traditionally get their name for being consumed mostly at the spring festival. Spring rolls are made and given to family relatives as a present of blessing,
hwung-jin wan-lyang/: A ton of gold, is said a wish for prosperity.
SWEET RICE BALLS 汤圆 Tāngyuán /tung-ywen/- Family Togetherness
Rice balls are mostly eaten during Chinese New Year as they are a sign of family and togetherness. Different regions in China eat the sweet rice balls at different periods during the New Year festival, because people have started consuming the food year-round as a dessert, they now come in a wide variety of colours and fillings.
GOOD FORTUNE FRUIT- Fullness and Wealth
There are specific fruits which are eaten during the Chinese New Year, the fruit chosen are predominantly round or golden in colour. This is a symbol of fullness and wellness, different types of fruits are believed to bring different things. Tangerines and oranges bring a person luck and fortune, then plums and shaddocks are a symbol of more wealth. There are plenty of other fruits consumed with different meanings at the New Year, such as a Banana which means offering and a wish for better-improved education and brilliance at work, lychee meaning close family ties, Melon having a close family unity and growth.
RICE CAKE 年糕 Niángāo /nyen-gaoww- Increased income or increased position
Rice cakes are eaten as a meaning of securing a higher position, prosperous business or an improvement in life. It is also given to others as a sign of an individual getting taller the next year or the promise of a better year. Chinese people see it as good luck to consume this during the New Year period, there are two different types of New Year cakes. There is a sweet cake or a savoury cake cooked in a soup, these rice cakes in Chinese society are seen as the common man’s snack.
LONGEVITY NOODLES 长寿面 Chángshòu Miàn /chung-show myen/- Happiness and Longevity
These noodles are a symbol for a wish for longevity, they are served uncut as another sign for the consumer’s life. These noodles are longer than normal noodles and uncut, they can be fried and served on a plate, or boiled and served with broth. It is forbidden and seen as unlucky and a bad omen if you cut the strands of noodles. Longevity noodles also form a large part of Chinese birthday celebrations, the Chinese believe that it brings a healthy, long and happy life.